A Lesson by John Wentworth Chapin

“We never know what you’re saying to us,” she says. I laugh, because this should be funny, but it’s not.

“What a pleasure to know that my pearls of wisdom fall on deaf ears,” I say.

“Like that,” she says. She’s the worst student in my Modern Film class and we’re alone at a bar.

She is just a few years younger than I, back in college. She doesn’t know how to organize or articulate her thoughts, but she has killer instincts. We watched a film in class and she said something brilliant; the sheep surrounding her stared blankly. So I educed, elaborated, expounded – all the verbs necessary to make her observation an insight.

“No,” she said, when I reframed her observation, “that’s not what I meant.”

The rest of the class chewed its cud. I was left to elucidate or shut up.

“Perhaps you could clarify your point,” I offered. She repeated, eerily verbatim, her observation that prompted my diatribe.



They understood what she was saying. I understood it; but no one understands me. This is what prompted me to follow her after class to this bar and act surprised when I walked in and saw her there. She didn’t look surprised; in fact, she casually nodded me over.

“You act as though you expected me,” I said.

She shrugged. I understood exactly what she meant.


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Filed under John Wentworth Chapin

10 responses to “A Lesson by John Wentworth Chapin

  1. Well done, John. There’s a lot of insight into human nature and reactions here.

  2. now i am curious for more :)

    and this is a wickedly good dialogue:



  3. Thanks, Susan and Dorothee! Much appreciated.

  4. stephen

    nice. i like the whole of this piece.

  5. A lot of times people hear what they want to hear. Nicely done.

  6. guy

    Her voice is really on. So is his: articulate, but lacking self-awareness. Nice.

    I used to have one of my seminars in a bar.

  7. Yes. The class as cows. Yes, yes, yes.

    And when the one sheep stands out, it rather startles. Love this. Peace…

  8. Robert Vaughan

    This is so true to life itself: communication breakdown displayed in such a bare-bones manner. I like the digression into animal sounds, something I do often while I write. Nice job, I enjoyed this immensely.

  9. Pingback: Week #27 – lost in translation « 52|250 A Year of Flash

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